Words Ache, But Indifference Kills

Photograph Source: Swithun Crowe – CC BY 2.0

While segments of the US body politic remain fixated as so much virtual Netflix on episodic instances of “incitement” to political violence, it is incitement to ignorance that poses the greatest danger to a relatively uninhibited and diverse society … albeit one no longer, if ever, remarkable for its collective thirst for informed thought and acquired education, be it in the classroom or out.

Words are not the enemy … stupidity is. And on that score today the United States stands proudly at the head of the class.  Enter Kanye West, Nick Fuentes and the devoted dupes who relish them as seers of sort; communal gifts from on-high who engender insight, experience and vision. In reality, they add nothing to the challenge of the marketplace of ideas but a call to the rest of us to be worse than we actually are, and can be.

For the dutiful apologists who remain in his noticeably flaccid ministry, Kanye West’s salvation finds his “recent” descent into madness to be but another, fresher version of his legendary lyrical prowess. To others, his appearance in cotton black-face mask with salute for Hitler’s skillful complexity is little more than a new public runway stroll. Or is that troll? Spare me the debate. West is an accomplished unabashed lunatic. “But I’m gross” says he, looking in the mirror. “I can’t even stomach myself.” Agreed. His words….Not mine. Little more need be said.

On the other hand, Nick Fuentes is the consummate petty political grifter–an enduring pre-pubescent cerebral wreck who, with accomplished ease, went from triumphant 16-year-old student council president to freshman college dropout, tragically overwhelmed by the intellectual challenge of a demanding course load that debated largely whether eastern or pacific standard times has more hours in a given 24-hour day. Along the way, as a 20 something scholarly virgin, his diverse and extensive travel and personal experience has taken him from the leadership podiums of figurative trailer parks from coast to coast … shouting out burn the libraries… burn the libraries to the cheer of those who’s archive experience is largely limited to scanning headlines of thought-provoking treatises shelved at Super 8 check-out counters.

At days end, as they spew “it’s the Jews… it’s the Jews,” they are little more than convenient cerebral lepers that trigger opportune Zionist red-alarm glockenspiels (is this anti-Semitic?) providing invaluable political fodder to the very women and men who indict them for the spittle of their ignorance, but, yet, applaud far worse real-time dictates at the hands of Israel.  Ultimately, the flailing rage of West and Fuentes fits neatly into the skillful propogandist needs of Zionists who, with expedient political bounty, scream-out “they hate us… they hate us all” using uninformed media echo chambers to promote an international geo political agenda rooted in Israel’s proverbial “victimhood” nurtured though perpetual excuse. Full stop.

Right about now, the groan of “self-hating Jew” can be heard from those who will twist the clear unmistakable message of these words as somehow dutiful support for the vile taunts of “Jews will not replace us” and not, as intended, a necessary and lawful condemnation of Zionists and Israel, a European colonial project and fan base which for decades has used such venomous gush to rewrite the real tongs of its criminal ethnic cleansing in Palestine.  Make no mistake about it, Zionists in and out of Israel long before their first terrorist bombing in Palestine have justified each and every outrage perpetrated against Palestinians as necessary self-defense on behalf of a faith and a people it falsely declares it represents and which, it asserts, is under siege, indeed endangered, en masse across the globe. Neither is true.

Little more than convenient but ugly doublespeak, the vitriolic attack on Jews by West and his breed predictably moves Western political leaders, funders and pundits to further shutter their eyes to Zionist-fueled hate and violence in Palestine. With exploited certainty, it fuels efforts to bully if not silence legitimate protest against Israeli crimes through Zionist attacks upon a robust marketplace of ideas–one necessarily dependent upon open dialogue and debate and, on this point, empowered by fact driven, but intimidated, conferences, academic speech, publications, and BDS activism.

Long are the days when the chorus of partisan geo-political censors, including the cash cow platforms of AIPAC, the Zionist Organization of America and the parochial ADL have successfully endeavored to disguise and rewrite the bloodied footprint of Zionism across the age-old fields and cobblestone pathways of Palestine. They and various Zionist commentators alike have, whenever available, seized upon contemporary Skokie-like hate and ignorance to erase the reality of 74 years, not of words, but unbroken Palestinian death and destruction at the hands of Israel.

For Palestinians, “kill the Arabs… kill the Arabs” is not hate speech but reality.  For Zionists “kill the Arabs… kill the Arabs” is not hate speech but, for many, enduring aspiration.

I have spoken out, written of and fought against Zionism and Israel for most of my life. Whether in print, on the streets or in courtrooms in and out of the United States, I have never hesitated to confront a Zionist agenda and Israeli tradition which seeks to ensure that for Palestinians their unbroken daily Nakba will be nothing less than “the final solution,” redux.  From a human rights and international law standpoint am I comparing the hate-driven rampage of an earlier monster to the toxic deadly rule of a state born of the survivors of his murderous rampage… yes. There, I said it. Is this anti-Semitic?

Today politicians, pundits, journalists and liberals alike express, as they should, outrage over the “recent” putrid outbursts spewed not just from West and Fuentes, but other equally failed and ignorant white supremacists who proudly target and deplore persons of different color, of different faith, of different sexual identity.

Yet, while these virtuous defenders of faith, ethnicity and culture race to the protection of Judaism in the United States (in reality stronger and safer than ever before), their silence about Israel, about the crimes perpetrated by it daily, speaks volumes of their discerning support of but certain faiths, certain ethnicities, certain cultures, certain histories to the exclusion of others. Nowhere is that more palpable than it is in the almost deafening silence about systemic human rights abuses perpetrated by Israel throughout Palestine.

For those with open eyes, it is no challenge to see the vast ugly marker of an Israeli occupation now entering its 75th year. Littered with the mass graves of Palestinians, those dead, those dying, and those that hang on, it is a construct conceived in such a systematic sinister way as to typically disconnect its mass victims from international public viewing, let alone accountability, but, yet, not at all from the marked chest-pounding of Zionist pride. Israel thrives on in your face.

Treatises and volumes alike have been written of the cruel, criminal and targeted pillage and plunder of Palestine at the hands of this European colonial project, one funded largely by the United States to the historic and unparalleled tune of some three-hundred billion dollars. To say that millions of Palestinians have been displaced from their homes and land, tens of thousands of civilians murdered, twenty times as many crippled and upwards of a million detained not for crimes but politics, is to speak kindly of Israel.  With seasonal mass bombings of urban centers, targeted attacks upon civilian residences, hospitals and schools very much the norm, it is interesting, indeed, to see Putin’s current attacks upon civilians and essential infrastructure in Ukraine denounced by many as war crimes, but Israel’s much longer, more proficient and wider application of the identical strategy either ignored or found to be by the same critics-understandable retaliation.

Or can it be that the “good Jew”/”bad Jew” dichotomy that Zionists have long applied to those Jews who walk blindly with Israel versus those who dare to confront it, stands with equal ardor to the good civilian/bad civilian formula long promoted under US foreign policy when it comes to casualties of non-combatants?

In a complete historical edit, not a day passes without the shallow dishonest political hymn that Israel stands as a solitary beacon of democracy and hope surrounded by a sea of theocracies which daily sacrifice the human rights and dignity of their own people to the mantle of their power.  An interesting read, indeed, given Israel’s recent détente with inveterate human rights violators such as UAE, Bahrain and KSA and the return to power of avowed war criminal and indicted thief Benjamin Netanyahu.

Independent of his own cruel historical baggage, Netanyahu brings with him a coven of political leaders and advisors well-known for their racist, anti-Arab far right rhetoric and practices.  Comprised of ultra-religious, misogynist and homophobic activists, they include followers of the late Mair Kahane, founder of a US designated terrorist organization, as well as others convicted of terrorism offenses, or who call for the complete annexation of occupied Palestine. Also, within this chorus of hate, are those who promote the expulsion of Israel’s “enemies” or those who are “disloyal” to it, and many who oppose the immigration of Africans Jews seeking asylum there. Sorry … wrong color.

One need not be an oracle to understand what this “new” Israel, if left to its own devices, augurs for the future of Palestinians. With Israeli history very much a palpable soothsayer of aspired days to come, it is all but certain that the Zionist drive for ethnic cleansing will remain relentless. Were this an introduction to a legal brief for a well-earned war crimes tribunal against Israel and limited to but the last twenty-four months alone, it would easily run into hundreds of pages filled with painful first party declarations and devastating supporting exhibits. Not necessary. Even a passing overview of Israel’s contemporary human rights record says … guilty as charged.

For example, over the last two years alone Israeli forces have killed more than 500 civilians including some one hundred minors and two US citizens. Several hundred others have been injured by live fire.  In its most recent report, the Palestinian Centre For Human Rights notes that in the first ten months of 2022 “IOF attacks killed 175 Palestinians, including 118 civilians: 35 children, 8 women, 2 Palestinians killed by Israeli settlers and the rest were activists; 18 of them were assassinated. Also, hundreds of Palestinians, including women and children, were wounded in IOF’s attacks in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Moreover, 5 Palestinian detainees, including a woman, died in the Israeli prisons.” This death march is borne out by the UN Middle East envoy who in noting that “2022 is on course to be the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank since the U.N. started tracking fatalities in 2005,” reported that in October alone 32 Palestinians, including six children were killed by Israeli security forces with another 311 injured during demonstrations, clashes and search-and-arrest operations.

According to the Israeli Human Rights Organization B’Tselem, during the same period there have been 832 incidents of violence by settlers and other Israeli civilians directed at Palestinians in the occupied West Bank ranging from blocking roads, throwing stones at cars and houses, raiding villages and farmland, torching fields and olive groves, and damaging crops and property to physical assault, which include the use of Molotov cocktails and live fire. While Israeli military forces have been present during most of these attacks, they have done little if anything but cheer.

Administrative detention continues to be the mainstay of Israel’s judicial system in the occupied West Bank including Jerusalem where Palestinian civilians are regularly detained through military tribunals in which they are held not because they have committed a crime but because if free, they might break the law in the future. Facing unknown allegations and held indefinitely without legal proceedings, including a trial or access to the evidence being used against them, these political prisoners have no idea if and when they will be released. While the full number of political prisoners is unknown, it has been reported that today there are at least 530 administrative detainees including almost 200 Palestinian minors. While Israel stopped responding to requests by B’Tselem for information about detainees under its Freedom of Information Law in 2020, based upon independent sources it reported that as of a year ago there were 4,184 Palestinian security detainees and prisoners being held in Israel Prisons.

Over the last several years Israeli forces have demolished, seized or forced Palestinians to demolish almost 700 civilian structures, leaving homeless upwards of a thousand, including more than a hundred children. Meanwhile tens of thousands of other Palestinians face the specter of the same destruction and displacement due to outstanding demolition orders that can be executed at any time. According to the Palestinian Centre For Human Rights:

“[s]ince the beginning of 2022, [the] IOF made 137 families homeless, a total of 805 persons, including 158 women and 368 children. This was the [knowing] result of IOF demolition of 154 houses and dozens of residential and agricultural tents. The IOF also demolished 107 other civilian objects, leveled vacant areas of land and delivered dozens of notices of demolition, cease-construction, and evacuation.”

In addition, over this period Israel has permitted the destruction of farms and crops and seized vehicles, tractors, water tanks and other essential items for communities under siege. According the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs more than 1,000 trees owned by Palestinian farmers were burned or damaged by settlers in the Israeli-occupied territory during last year’s harvest. The International Committee of the Red Cross reports that since August of 2020 over 9,000 olive trees have been destroyed in the West Bank.

Els Debuf, head of the ICRC’s mission in Jerusalem, notes:

For years, the ICRC has observed a seasonal peak in violence by Israeli settlers residing in certain settlements and outposts in the West Bank towards Palestinian farmers and their property in the period leading up to the olive harvest season, as well as during the harvest season itself, in October and November … Farmers also experience acts of harassment and violence that aim at preventing a successful harvest, not to mention the destruction of farming equipment or the uprooting and burning of olive trees.

And what of Gaza? Crippled by an Israeli, and at times Egyptian, blockade of air, land and sea that began after the electoral victory of Hamas, these past 16 years have seen the Strip’s two million people denied the essentials of life including medical equipment and medicine, food and water, motors and propellers for its essential fishing industry and strict travel and movement restrictions on its citizens thus creating the world’s largest outdoor prison.

According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, as of a year ago the economic cost of the Israeli occupation of the 140 square mile Gaza Strip was estimated at $16.7 billion. Add in five massive military assaults during this time that have targeted its civilian population and infrastructure including schools, hospitals, day care center and UNRWA shelters, Israel’s use of phosphorous and cluster bombs, tanks, drones and sniper fire, has killed or crippled tens of thousands of Gaza’s civilians, including peaceful protesters, and done massive damage to its infrastructure.

The United Nations reports these assaults have caused more than $5 billion worth of damage to Gaza’s homes, agriculture, industry, electricity and water infrastructure. According to the internationally famed Medicines Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), the impact of the economic blockade and Israeli warfare on Gaza has been devastating to its entire civilian population:“Everyone is constantly exposed to the triggers of psychological trauma, including health care workers. Their resilience is put to the test daily as they help others while experiencing traumatic events themselves.”

According to Medicines Sans Frontieres psychiatrist Juan Paris 40 percent of young Gazans suffer from mood disorders, 60 to 70 percent suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, and 90 percent suffer from other stress-related conditions, with the number of suicides and attempted suicides risen steadily there over recent years. Meanwhile, the World Bank estimates 59% of Gaza residents, half of whom are children, are living in poverty, and 64% suffer from food insecurity.

That Israel has developed and maintains a system of Apartheid from the “river to the sea” which towers in darkness over that of South Africa and which is based entirely upon one’s faith, ethnicity and skin-tone is beyond cavil.  Lacking any constitution or checks and balances that one might provide for, not long-ago Israel proclaimed itself to be a “Nation state” which, by legislative fiat, exalts Judaism to the exclusion of any other religion. In support of this boundless theocratic power, its Knesset has enacted more than 65 laws that give Jews preferential treatment and benefit over all others.

This is not abstract unverifiable political dogma. To be sure, numerous highly respected human rights and international law organizations have concluded that Israel sees itself as beyond the reach of international law, human rights, the law of war, and the Geneva Conventions. With this there can be no debate.

For example, in a report prepared for the United Nations its Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Occupied Since 1967 recently concluded that “apartheid is being practiced by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territory and beyond.”  Human Rights Watch mirrors this finding in its recent 200 plus page report A Threshold Crossed which concluded Israel is “committing … crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution [through] an overarching government policy to maintain the domination by Jewish Israelis over Palestinians coupled with grave abuses committed against Palestinians living in the occupied territory, including East Jerusalem.”

In its report of 2022, Amnesty International concludes Israel’s “massive seizures of Palestinian land and property, unlawful killings, forcible transfer, drastic movement restrictions, and the denial of nationality and citizenship to Palestinians … amounts to apartheid under international law.”

B’Tselem’s recent conclusion is no different. In a biting heavily cited report it specifically notes that Palestinian citizens of Israel do not enjoy the same rights as Jewish citizens by law and practice. In furtherance of “Jewish supremacy” B’Tselem notes that:

“supremacy is advanced differently in every unit, and the resulting forms of injustice differ: the lived experience of Palestinians in blockaded Gaza is unlike that of Palestinian subjects in the West Bank, permanent residents in East Jerusalem or Palestinian citizens within sovereign Israeli territory. Yet these are variations on the fact that all Palestinians living under Israeli rule are treated as inferior in rights and status to Jews who live in the very same area.”

The report notes that in a palpable effort of “Judaizing” lands [as] “a resource meant almost exclusively to benefit the Jewish public, Israel continues to seize and annex land for Jews while crowding Palestinians in enclaves.” It further describes a system of that restricts “Palestinians freedom of movement that embraces the … denial of Palestinians’ right to political participation” and reserves “immigration for Jews only.”

There is no better proof of Israel’s detached accountability from settled international law than the very words of outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Lapid who recently proclaimed “Nobody will investigate IDF soldiers [or] preach morality on warfare” to Israel. These few very simple supremacist chest pounds sum up the Zionist state’s stunning indifference to any international norms as it commits unspeakable crimes from behind the looming artificial walls and barricades surrounding its massive deadly 21st century stalag.

Against this painful numbing reality of mass death and destruction, one empowered and funded by endless support and American dollars doled-out to Israel from bottomless coffers controlled by political parties, petty politicians and lurching lobbyists alike, sadly the marketplace of ideas appears consumed not by vulture violence, which we enable, but by words, even ugly words of hate.

I worry not at all about the hate speech of Kanye West, Nick Fuentes and the other odious supremacists that attack Jews, people of color, the LGBTQ community, refugees and women who dare to expect bodily autonomy. Theirs is a language of a cheap political brand filled not with the ring of truth but the rot of its speaker and mindless cheer of their cult. Time and time again they have proven themselves unfit to reside in the marketplace of ideas. It renders them not ineligible to participate in the debate, just irrelevant to any thoughtful, insightful or probative role within it.

Meanwhile thousands of miles away it is not words that steal the life and liberty of millions of Palestinians but US funded and Zionist orchestrated pogroms that target Palestinians for little more than their existence.

Hateful words can bully. They can ache. They can alarm. Ultimately, they cannot survive the test of truth … the reality that comes not from the ignorance of one’s mouth, but the settled experiment of time.

Stanley L. Cohen is lawyer and activist in New York City.